T he fate of smoked beer in Germany largely followed the British path; however, a few small differences did allow the perpetuation of a smoked beer brewing culture. Germany eventually had access to much of the technology that had led to the decline of smoked beer in Britain. Although these innovations reached Germany later, many Germans had already adopted the process of air kilning, a method of drying malt by indirect heat. This allowed Germans to create smoke-free malts while still using smoke-producing fuel. Herein, the decline of smoked malt production in Germany had its own launching point. But, the divergence of brewing and malting industries did not occur in Germany to the degree it had in Britain. So, many German brewers continued to malt their own barley in-house into the 19th century.
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When well-crafted, the first sip of a smoke beer makes you think of meat fresh from the grill or sparks thoughts of a summer campfire. Creating a balanced, drinkable smoke beer is not a simple task. Not all brewers are approaching the creation of a desirable smoked beer in the same way. While some are using traditional methods of incorporating smoked malts that owe their origin to the German Rauchbier, the use of other smoked ingredients and the beer styles being produced are where things get creative and how the tasting notes become pleasantly unexpected. While the current popularity of smoke beers in the US might make it seem like the newest craft beer trend, these beers actually date back much further than familiar non-smoked styles.
Resurrecting historical beer styles and merging them with modern brewing ingenuity is a hallmark of American craft brewers. And smoke beers are a perfect example of this creative spark. In the smoke-beer genre, most point to the traditional Rauchbier style, which emerged in Bamberg, Germany, in the s. The confluence of tradition and innovation has sparked a diverse collection of crafted smoke beers throughout the U. Relying on techniques derived from Alaskans who brewed more than a century ago, Alaskan Brewing uses direct heat from local alder wood to malt its barley a process also recognizable to those who love smoked salmon. And the water for the beer comes from a nearby glacier.